Present and future of Kirkland Trails discussed at inaugural meeting

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CLINTON — Future plans, available funding and current efforts to develop a network of connected multi-use trails, paths and bike lanes through the Kirkland-Clinton area were highlighted during the inaugural meeting of Kirkland Trails, Inc. on Monday, Jan. 13.

Board President Sharon Williams called the meeting to order with the non-profit’s first gavel strike before welcoming the community, current organization members and those who newly joined that evening.

Williams explained how Kirkland Trails has been a cooperative project between the community and Town of Kirkland and even Clinton Central School and Hamilton College. Kirkland Trails, Inc. received its first $15,000 grant from Hamilton’s Town-Gown Fund which resulted in the effort becoming a “real organization,” the president said, “and really spearheaded the project.”

It was then emphasized that certain community members began to organize in an effort to create a safe recreational trail through the town and village since the fatal November 2017 accident on Kirkland Avenue. Hamilton College Music Professor Samuel Pellman was riding his bicycle southbound when he was struck by a car from behind, according to the sheriff’s office. He succumbed to his injuries at a local hospital.

“Since the accident, we knew something had to be done so we could walk and ride our bicycles,” or be involved in other recreational activities, “safely. So we started meeting in January 2018 — exactly two years ago,” Williams told the crowd of about 40.

Kirkland Trails, Inc. is now incorporated with the state, has created bylaws, achieved fiscal sponsorship from the Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties, and received a state permit to develop the 2.5-mile trail. Looking ahead, plans for this year include finishing work on the initial trail, applying for grants and exploring possible trail routes on the north side of town.

The 2.5-mile trail runs from Deansboro, from the Town of Marshall trail, north along the old railroad corridor across Dugway Road to Route 12B near Route 233. Phase I is the beginning of the state-owned Chenango Canal Trail bisecting Kirkland from the south to north.

As of Friday, Jan. 10, there were 51 members of the Kirkland Trails, Inc., committee, reported Gerry Gogel, but that number did not include area residents who joined during the annual meeting.

Treasurer Chris Ceely reported that Kirkland Trails’ treasury was at a total of $17,086.22 in its savings and $112.82 in its checking account.

Total assets were at $34,920.67, but after paying for liability insurance and other anticipated expenditures, going into 2020, the organization has $7,214.04. Fund-raising efforts are on-going.

Vice-president Chip Bassett commended Town Highway Superintendent Jon Scott and his crew in helping to clear the trail, leveling it and preparing it to be covered with stone dust. Williams also mentioned how the trail runs parallel to the Chenango Canal, and how portions of old locks are still present. Once the organization raises enough funds, she said board members look forward to adding signage to commemorate the historical significance of the canal and railroad corridor.

“Over time, we hope to develop and get the resources necessary to highlight the historical aspects of the trail,” the president said. “It’s how Clinton came to be, and it would be neat to add elements that punctuate the railroad bed and the canal, and its history.”

While efforts are currently focused on finishing Phase I of the project, Planning Committee representative Jim Bramley discussed Phase II and other long-range plans. Kirkland Trails’ current goals include developing trails in the Chenango Canal corridor and the Rome & Clinton Railroad corridor, using old railroad beds wherever possible. Bramley said the organization hopes to eventually connect the Chenango Canal Trail to the Rayhill Trail via Middle Settlement Road in New Hartford, as well as possibly north to New Hartford Town Park, continuing to Hamilton, Norwich and Binghamton in the south.

Phase III could involve efforts to connect the trail into the village, which may be challenging because the organization would need to get easements from private property owners, and would most likely need to construct bridges crossing White and Oriskany creeks, Bramley said. In the next few years, Kirkland Trails may look to see how its trails can connect to the Erie Canalway Trail, which would run up to Rome.

If the system could connect to the Erie Canalway Trail through the Rome & Clinton RR route, “we’d have a better chance of getting grant money” from the state, “so that’s something we’d like to see in the future,” Bramley said. He also went on to discuss a possible future trailhead to be developed at Limberlost and Middle Settlement roads.

The Phase I segment of Kirkland Trails is completely owned by the state, which is why it was chosen for the initial effort. Even CNY Snow Travelers snowmobile club maintains a portion of the trail during winter, which made the 2.5 section of the initial trail the easiest and most cost-effective section to develop and maintain. Board members said the snowmobile club has expressed its desire to “co-exist” with Kirkland Trails, allowing cross-country skiers to utilize the path as well.

Paula Balch from the fund-raising committee closed out the business portion of the annual meeting, reporting that during efforts last year, an anonymous donor gave $15,000 to Kirkland Trails, matching what the organization had received from the Town-Gown Fund. Once the 2020 fund-raising campaign begins in the spring, Balch said the goal is to raise $75,000 for the trail this year.

“We’ll be reaching out to community members and applying for grants to finish Phase I and launch Phase II,” she said, adding that in honor of significant donors, names will be placed on plaques that will be attached to benches sitting along the trail.

No new nominations came from the floor following the business portion of the meeting, and therefore the following were elected to the Kirkland Trails Board of Directors:

• Three-year term from January 2020 through January 2023: Joe Gale, Sandy Scofield (secretary) and Sharon Williams (president).

• Two-year replacement position January 2020 to January 2022: Tom Grenier.

• One-year replacement position January 2020 to January 2021: Nick Heintz.

Kirkland Trails, Inc. Board of Directors meetings are held every third Monday of the month at St. James Episcopal Church, 9 Williams St. Meeting are open to the public.

Annual membership is $5 for students; $20 for adults; $30 for families; and $15 for seniors. Become a member of Friends of Kirkland Trails online at kirklandnytrails.org or by mailing a check made payable to Kirkland Trails, Inc. to P.O. Box 86, Clinton, N.Y. 13323.

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